- Glossary of Assessing Terms
- Assessing Dates to Remember
- How Revaluation Affects Your Property Tax
- The Appeal Process
- Frequently Asked Questions
Q. What is the role of the assessor?
A. The assessor is a state certified professional whose duties are to discover, list, and place a value on all taxable real and personal property in the city, in a uniform manner. The assessor is not involved in the collection of the property tax.
Q. How does the assessor value property?
A. Wisconsin Law requires that property assessments be based on fair market value. Estimating the market value of your property is a matter of determining the price a typical buyer would pay for the property in its present condition.
Some factors the assessor considers are: what similar properties are selling for, what it would cost to replace your property, what rent it may earn, as well as any other factors that affect its value. IT IS IMPORTANT TO REMEMBER THAT THE ASSESSOR DOES NOT CREATE THIS VALUE, BUT RATHER INTERPRETS WHAT IS HAPPENING IN THE REAL ESTATE MARKET.
Q. What will happen to my assessment if I improve my property?
A. Generally speaking, improvements that increase the market value of a property will increase the assessed value. The following are typical items that will increase the assessed value of your property:
- Added rooms, garages, porches or decks
- Aluminum or vinyl siding
- Substantial modernization of kitchens or baths
- Central air conditioning
- Extensive remodeling
- Swimming pool
- Basement finish (family room, den, etc.)
Q. Will my assessment go up if I repair my property?
A. Good maintenance will help retain the market value of your property. Generally, your assessment will not be increased for individual minor repairs such as those that follow; however, a combination of several of these items could result in an increased assessment.
- Repairing concrete walks and driveways
- Replacing gutters and down spouts
- Replacing hot water heater
- Repairing or replacing roof
- Repairing porches and steps
- Repairing original siding
- Patching or repairing interior walls/ceilings
- Exterior painting
- Exterior awnings and shutters
- Replacing electrical fixtures
- Replacing furnace
- Weather stripping, screens, storm windows and doors
- Exterior landscaping including lawns, shrubbery, trees, flowers
Q. How can my assessment change when I haven't done anything to my property?
A. General economic conditions such as interest rates, inflation rates, and changes in the tax laws, will influence the value of real estate. As property values change in the market place, those changes must be reflected on the assessment roll.
Q. Will I be notified if there is a change in my assessment?
A. Wisconsin law requires that whenever an assessment is changed, the owner must be notified. Assessment notices are generally mailed in late April. In the year of a city-wide revaluation, assessment notices are mailed to all property owners.
Q. Why don't all assessments change at the same rate?
A. There are differences between individual properties and between neighborhoods. In one area the sales may indicate a substantial increase in value in a given year. In another neighborhood there may be no change in value, or even a decrease in property values.
Different types of properties within the same neighborhood may also show different value changes. For example, one-story houses may be more in demand than two-story houses, or older homes in the same area may be rising in value more slowly than newer homes.
There are numerous factors to be considered in each property which will cause the values to differ. Some of the factors which can affect value are location, age, condition, size, quality, number of baths, basement finish, and garages.
Q. I've heard you develop values by computer. Is this correct?
A. Just as in many other fields, computers are also useful in the assessment process. Assessors are trained to look for associations or relationships between property characteristics and market value. By analyzing these characteristics, and studying sales prices, assessors can begin to predict or estimate value by developing formulas and models.
Computers are much faster and are capable of advanced analysis in this area. But despite these capabilities, common sense and assessor judgment are always required to verify our assessments. We ask the assessors most familiar with the neighborhoods and properties to review all computer generated values.
Q. Will I be penalized if I don't let the assessor in when an inspection is requested?
A. When an interior inspection is not allowed, the assessor will attempt to update our records by looking at the property from the outside and using any other available information.
To ensure an accurate assessment, it is to your advantage to allow the assessor inside your property when an inspection is requested. By denying an inspection, you may lose the right to appeal your assessment to the Board of Review.
Q. How do I know if my assessment is fair?
A. You should first attempt to decide for yourself what your property is worth. This can be done by looking at area sales, contacting appraisers, and comparing assessments of similar homes. Assessment information is available in our office and open to the public for review during regular office hours.
The Appeal Process
Q. What if I don't agree with my assessment?
A. Come and talk with an assessor. During this informal session you can learn how your assessment was made, what factors were considered, and what type of records we keep about your property.
Q. After this review, if I still think the assessment is incorrect, what can I do?
A. The next step is to file an objection with the Board of Review. The property owner must provide the City Clerk with a written or oral notice of intent to file an objection at least 48 hours before the Board's first scheduled meeting. The Board can waive the 48 hour notice requirement if the property owner shows good cause for failing to meet the requirement or provides evidence of extraordinary circumstances. Objections must be in writing and should be filed with the City Clerk within the first two hours of the Board's first scheduled meeting. The Board of Review usually requires an objection to be filed on standard forms which are available either from the City Clerk or the City Assessor's office.
Q. What is the Board of Review? When do they meet?
A. The Board of Review in the City of Eau Claire includes the City Council, City Manager, City Clerk, and City Treasurer. The basic function of the Board is to listen to evidence presented by both the property owner and assessor and then determine if the assessed value of the property is correct.
All sessions of the Board are held in the Council Chambers. By state statute, the first session of the Board of Review must be within the thirty day period beginning on the second Monday in May. In Eau Claire, the Board of Review normally holds its first session on the second Monday in May. If there are not many appeals, the Board will usually complete its business during their first session. Once the Board has heard all appeals and adjourned, no further assessment objections can be considered until the following year. When you receive your tax statement in December, it is too late to file an objection for the current assessment. Paying your taxes under protest does not constitute a formal assessment objection.
Q. What evidence do I need to present to the Board of Review?
A. Keep in mind that your evidence must be strong enough to prove that the assessor's value is incorrect. STATING THAT PROPERTY TAXES ARE TOO HIGH IS NOT RELEVANT TESTIMONY. You should establish in your own mind what you think your property is worth.
The best evidence for this would be a recent sale price of your property. The next best evidence would be recent sales prices of properties that are similar to yours. The closer in proximity and similarity, the better the evidence. Another type of evidence is oral testimony from a witness who has made a recent appraisal of your property.
Q. Does the Board of Review have the final say?
A. If you don't agree with the Board of Review decision, the next step is an appeal to either the Wisconsin Department of Revenue or the Circuit Court.
Q. How do I appeal my assessment to the Department of Revenue?
A. Wisconsin law provides for a written appeal of the Board's decision to the Department of Revenue within 20 days after receipt of the decision or within 30 days of the Clerk's affidavit. A $100 filing fee is required. The fair market value of the items or parcels being appealed cannot exceed $1 million. The Department may revalue the property anytime before November 1 of the assessment year or within 60 days after receiving the appeal, whichever is later. If adjusted, the value is substituted for the original value and taxes paid accordingly. Appeal of the Department's decision is to the circuit court.
Q. How do I appeal my assessment to court?
A. An appeal to the circuit court must be made within 90 days after adjournment of the Board of Review. The court will then make a decision based solely on the testimony that was presented to the Board of Review. When your case goes before the circuit court, the court will review the record that was created at your Board of Review hearing and make its decision.
Q. I've been told that everybody's taxes go up after a revaluation. Is this true?
A. No, it is not. If the total levy remains the same, only those properties which are not presently paying their fair share will pay more taxes after a revaluation. Properties presently paying more than their fair share will pay less.
Q. How will my taxes change as a result of a new assessment?
A. Though the value of your property affects your share of taxes, the actual amount you pay is determined by the budget needs of the schools, city, county, technical college, and state reforestation. All of these taxing units decide what services they will provide in the coming year and how much money they will need to provide those services. Once this decision is made, a tax rate is adopted that will generate the needed dollars.
Assessment Date - All property is assessed as it existed on this date
Full payment of taxes due OR if paying in installments, due date of first tax installment payment (Installment payment option is not available for personal property taxes)
Last day to file personal property returns
End of April:
Assessment change notices are typically mailed during the period from the end of April through the end of May.
Fourth Monday in April:
Earliest meeting date for the Board of Review, which meets annually during the 45-day period, starting the fourth Monday in April.
Second tax installment payment due date
An estimate of value assigned to taxable property by the assessor for purposes of taxation.
The amount a typical, well-informed purchaser would be willing to pay for a property. For a sale to represent market value, the seller must be willing (but not under pressure) to sell, and the buyer must be willing (but not under any obligation) to buy. The property must be on the market for a reasonable length of time, the payment must be in cash or its equivalent, and the financing must be typical for that type of property.
Reappraisal or Revaluation
Placing new values on all taxable property for purposes of a new assessment.
The total assessed value of all taxable property in the city.
The total amount of property tax money that a taxing unit (such as the schools, city, county, etc.) needs to raise to provide services.
The tax levy divided by the tax base. It is often expressed in terms of dollars per hundred or dollars per thousand. The tax rate is multiplied by the assessed value to determine the amount of tax each property owner must pay.
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